Workshops & Talks 2020

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November 2020 ZOOM TALK by Gill Roberts “A Bag of Scraps and Inspirations” (report by Brenda Muller, photographs by Gill Roberts)

A Bag of Scraps and Inspiration was the title for the MEG talk by Gill Roberts on November 14th.   Gill’s four year journey using a small fortune’s worth of stunningly colourful Kaffe Fassett fabrics began when Merseyside Embroiderers Guild decided to celebrate 60 years of the branch with an evening talk at the Capstone Theatre,  and a workshop the next day.  The late, wonderful Marie Stacey was the Programme Secretary who put many months of work into making this event happen.

A long list of requirements and a lot of different fabrics were on the list for participants to bring along to the workshop day.  However, that wasn’t enough for Kaffe when we arrived!   He had brought along a huge selection of his amazing,  desirable and expensive fabrics to sell to us.  He looked at the fabrics that people had brought,  and mildly suggested to individual participants that he could accompany them to view his fabric selection and suggest how their choice could be improved.   This resulted in more than one person spending extravagantly, as no less than half a metre  could be bought, at £12 + per metre, and at least 20 different designs were needed to achieve an authentic Kaffe Fassett look!

Gill, like many of us,  was brought up to waste not, want not, so she has produced,  from her purchased fabrics that day….. several quilts, cushions,  a pyjama case, music stand bag (for when she plays her saxophone), a pencil case, tote bags (many), handbags, (several), an amazing and very appealing stuffed dinosaur toy, with hand embroidered scales, then…… with tiny scraps and left overs, another cushion,  and a piece of abstract art work, using scraps covered in organza and oversewn in a variety of interesting methods.  We could see the amazing array of colourful items on display behind Gill, and see in more detail on the slide presentation.
The final piece, and absolutely the last of every remaining scrap, which was finished only the evening  before the talk was a Richard Box style floral  piece (you will remember if you came to his amazing poppy workshop).
This very last piece, Project 19, entitled Flowers for Marie, was a tribute to Marie Stacey and features a thread painting of Marie’s face surrounded by flowers.
In addition to all the above,  Gill guided us through making a simple tote bag suitable for giving as a present filled with goodies that the recipient would enjoy.   Or just give them a handmade tote bag using your scraps ingeniously.
Full instructions on making the tote bag can be had by emailing Hilary secretary@megonline.co.uk
We received a lovely comment from Stephanie Kerry from Sheffield after the Zoom meeting
Well what a lovely time I had on Saturday joining in your Guild Talk. Gill was a fabulous speaker and present, please tell her I said so. She was so clear and concise and I am sure she is in great demand. Also of course it was nice meeting and chatting to you lovely Merseyside Embroiders, thank you for your welcome.

October 2020 ZOOM TALK by Helen Barnes about patchwork and quilting (report by Vicky Williams, photographs by Helen Barnes)

Helen gave us a brief resume of her career, emphasising the influence of India and Peru on her use of colours and shapes.

The history of Northern Quilts interested us all, how they spread across the Northern Pennines, Yorkshire, Northumberland and Cumbria with the introduction of cheaper materials in 18th & 19th centuries. The patterns were drawn on by needle or pencil or a pre-prepared started top could paid for. The patterns start in the centre, using a circle design, then radiate out using a leaf/flat iron shape and usually being surrounded by a cable edging. There are examples in the Beamish Museum of such designs, usually created by women. One quilter from Beamish became famous, John, whether for his needle skills or the notoriety of being murdered. Some patterns could be purchased from the local Co-op stores.

These were worked after the normal working day, not an easy task using white thread on white material. Red dye came in the late 19th century.

Club quilts were made by one stitcher for all members of the club; all paid 1 shilling per week towards the item and ownership was determined by drawing raffle tickets once all quilts had been completed. Re-cycled materials were used; access to a source of material was a great help. Sample books were highly prized. The various colours showing in some quilts indicated that the maker was probably a seamstress or dress maker.

We were heartened to learn that the Quilt Museum was still open 2/3 days per month and special items would be shown on request. We were given a short demonstration of how to work and compile a small quilt using the designs and techniques from the North. Kits and patterns were available.

A pleasant afternoon spent with a knowledgeable speaker. We look forward to future sessions with Helen.


(report by Hazel Bryant from Sheffield branch)

At my husband’s suggestion, as he’s taken part in several Zoom meetings/lectures during lockdown, I searched the EG website for any branches who were doing Zoom meetings and found that Merseyside had Helen Barnes doing a mini workshop for a quilted runner, as well as a talk on North Country Quilts.  This sounded right up my street, so I got in touch, and very easily and quickly was added to the list.  Zoom was so easy and it was such fun to do!  Helen’s talk was a joy.  She is a warm, friendly speaker whose knowledge of all things quilts was fascinating, along with her pictures of both quilts and other embroidered items taken on her travels over the years.  It was wonderful to feel part of an EG group again; I was given a very warm welcome.  So thank you Merseyside ladies; I would encourage anyone to join a Zoom group and I know I shall be back again.

We have had a break from our regular meetings due to the global pandemic and COVID 19, but now we can continue our programme with regular monthly Zoom meetings


February 2020 WORKSHOP with Victoria Riley “A Taste of Indonesian Batik” (report by Diane Moore)

Victoria explained that she had travelled quite a lot as a child with her parents and by the time she was a teenager she was living in Indonesia and became aware of how batik was made. Her GCSE’s and A levels were completed in the UK after which time she took a summer out to go back to Indonesia where she studied the art of making Batik at the Batik institute in Jakarta. Fast forward to current day and Victoria has turned her love and passion for Indonesian Batik into a working business of teaching this skill in the form of workshops.

We started the day with calico pieces approximately A4 in size and then using some template pictures placed under our calico we drew around the design in pencil onto our calico. Alternatively, you could do a design freehand if you felt confident to do that. Next came the interesting part of going over the outline with melted wax – paraffin wax which can be melted and maintained at a constant temperature in the kind of device you may find at a beauticians. In fact my friend suggested I may want to do her upper lip during lunch!! Now that’s just being cheeky!!

There is a definite knack and understanding to using the Tjantings, which is the utensil pen like vessel for applying the wax, but after a bit of trial and error we were getting to grips with it. The wax was going to create the resist for the dye to be applied. After lunch this is where the real fun started – applying the dyes. It was a real reminder of mixing colours and letting our artistic freedom and inner child run wild. So all in all a very interesting day learning a different way of colouring fabric with many varied results as you can see from the pictures.

Thank you very much Victoria.

January 2020 TALK by Sarah Thursfield”Of Seamstresses and Shirts: Plain and Not-So-Plain Sewing” (report by Sarah Lowes)

Sarah Thursfield, author of ‘The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant’ and (online) ‘Guide to Shirtmaking’ makes clothes for serious historical enactments. She says that “If you’re going to present history to the public, you owe it to history to get it right.”Sarah explained to us that most outer apparel in history was made by men but that it is a thousand year old tradition for shifts, shirts, sheets, towels, baby clothes and sanitary towels to be made by seamstresses and maintained by laundry women.She talked about the coarsely woven fabrics used for sacks and the finer ones used for clothes. We were surprised to learn that finer linens could be woven in the past by hand than today by machine!

Sarah took us through the history of shirts and shifts and how their construction changed as the years went by. We looked at the wide, garments of the Dark Ages and then at the narrower shape of men’s tunics and sleeves in the 14th century. It was very interesting to see how the low necks of men’s shirts in the 15th century with their many pleats gathered into the neckband eventually evolved into the ruff. From plain, white simple garments, both shirts and shifts became far more showy with fancy stitches along the seams, becoming redwork, blackwork, lace insertions and embroidered neckbands and plackets. The ruff itself was later given lace along the edge and the smart gentleman would have had a matching pair of cuffs and tops for his boots, while a lady would have smarted up her well-worn dress with a lace tartlet and ornamental apron.It was lovely to see Sarah’s reproduction garments, all made with care and accuracy